Jay Shinn was in second grade when he figured out he wanted to be an artist. And maybe there's more than a tinge of a schoolboy's fascination with geometric figures and bright colors in the work he'll show at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' downtown gallery.
But the Arkansas native is 54 years old now, so although some of his pieces resemble paper airplanes on steroids, he imbues them with an edgy sophistication. Shinn uses spray paint, house paint, Plexiglas, neon and projected light to create objects that are ... well, a little Op art, a little snowflake-y, a little architectural, a little cartoonish.
"I try to merge these materials to transform themselves into a visual confusion that becomes a whole and harmonious statement," he says by e-mail from his New York City studio, adding that he hopes viewers of his art will feel a "peaceful uncertainty."
He starts with sketches, which help him conceptualize his ideas and lead him into the specific media he will use for a given piece. He's been using light in his work for a long time, but in the past four years has augmented it with projection and shadow. For reference: One of Shinn's major influences has been James Turrell, whose installation piece, "Trace Elements," recently ended its run at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
GOCA director Daisy McConnell finds a sort of harmonic convergence in two exhibits' coincidental focus on light, and the way they complement the Eric Tillinghast water installation at GOCA's campus gallery.
"There's a zeitgeist around the elements of water and light in the community," she says.
Another coincidence: Pard Morrison, the Colorado Springs sculptor who connected McConnell with Tillinghast, also recommended she check out Shinn's portfolio. Both Morrison and Shinn show their work at the Marty Walker Gallery in Dallas. Obviously, McConnell liked what she saw. About a year ago, she began arranging the exhibit — Shinn's first solo show in Colorado — and the artist visited in November 2011 to check out the space and confer with McConnell.
He began working on the Illuminated pieces six months ago, and plans to exhibit 19 works, of which 12 are drawings. The drawings are a standard 8½ by 11 inches, but the projected/painted works will be as large as 9 feet tall.
The larger pieces can take up to a month to execute, from preliminary sketches to finished work; he worked out the details of each large piece in his studios in New York City and Dallas. The full-time artist generally spends two weeks per month in each city, and, over the past three years, has found time to visit Berlin twice a year. He draws inspiration from seeing his artistic friends and the art exhibits in those three cities — seeking, as he writes, "to discover that needle in the haystack which evokes new ways of thinking and seeing."
While he's in Colorado Springs, Shinn will try to pay that inspiration forward, by meeting with UCCS students and painting in the gallery. He expects to gain fresh insights into his creative process and art in general from working in the unfamiliar environment.
"His work consists of hard-line geometric abstractions," McConnell says, "but people don't think that when they see it because it's so warm and engaging."